When I was seven years old, I had my heart set on becoming a doctor. Many years later, I am holding a degree in economics and fumbling through the corporate life.
The space between the dream and the present is where life happened.
Like most people, I am not one of those rare ones who actually get to steer their lives in the direction their little selves have always wanted. And not because I had no option to do so but because this is where all the circumstances in which I found myself and the deliberate choices I made led me. Obviously, the change of heart did not happen overnight; it was a product of years of struggle in which my then single mother’s finances were insufficient and big responsibilities took precedence over idealistic options, combined with years of finally discovering the intersection of what I actually love doing and the work I can contribute to benefit the world.
This is not to dismiss a young heart’s yearning. This is to acknowledge that life may not always be in sync with how we originally envisioned it, but it is no less great and meaningful.
We become who we choose to be. We do not walk linear lives where Choice A irrefutably leads to Outcome B. Sometimes life is not logical that way, and this is a nugget of truth we just need to come to peace with. The response to the outcome is our own. More than anything else, it’s a choice that builds our inner workings and that shapes our attitude toward the world.
For us twentysomethings, this is where we are in this critical stage where the rest of our years are founded. We are always in constant pressure to become. We are pressured to be what society wants us to be, what our families expect us to achieve, and what our friends advise us to do. From all directions, people tell us what to do and what not to do. They tell us what is right and what is not right. People voice their own truths, sometimes to the point of insistence. What we don’t often realize is that the voice that is most often tuned out amid the noise is our own. And sometimes, this is the only voice that we must listen to.
To grow up and to grow are two different things. It is easy to grow up and just let life take its course. Going with the flow through all life’s stages is relatively simple. One just has to get up every single day, survive the mundane, and crawl back to bed when all is said and done. What is challenging, however, is to grow—that is, to pursue the life we have always desired for ourselves by making deliberate, hard-thought choices, while at the same time leaving leg room to rectify mistakes and deal with unexpected curve balls. It is facing the day head- and heart-strong and pursuing the tiny things that ultimately make us happy, despite everything that makes living less desirable.
As they say, life happens. But let me add that life does not just happen. We make it happen. It does not always turn out the way we want it to, but it does turn out to be the best life we have been blessed to live if we just choose to, every day.
The space between where we are now and where we truly see ourselves happy is when life happens; this is where the great pursuit is.
At the end of the day, the choice to become is what makes us.
Gill Altuna, 24, is a manager in a multinational company.
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